The Queen is to base herself at Windsor Castle early and is likely to stay there beyond the Easter period as she follows Government guidance on coronavirus.
Buckingham Palace announced today that the 93-year-old head of state will decamp to the Berkshire royal residence on Thursday – a week earlier than she usually does for Easter Court.
The Queen’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace have also been called off and the Palace of Holyroodhouse garden party in Edinburgh, which takes place in July, is under review.
The monarch will be based at her favourite home with a reduced household and will be following appropriate advice, a source said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on all people in the UK, particularly the over 70s, to avoid all non-essential contact and travel as part of unprecedented peacetime measures aimed at trying to control the spread of Covid-19.
Elizabeth II, the nation’s longest reigning monarch, is due to celebrate her 94th birthday next month, and the risk of more severe symptoms from the coronavirus is greater for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Investitures will be rearranged and the annual Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel has been cancelled, the palace said.
The Queen (pictured in Windsor on Sunday) returned to Buckingham Palace today to carry on her duties despite the coronavirus outbreak
Windsor Castle today as the number of as the government’s chief science officer, Patrick Vallance, estimated that there are currently 55,000 infected people in the UK
The Queen’s audiences this week at Buckingham Palace will still go ahead as planned including receiving the Prime Minister, the Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Bishop of Hereford.
But future audiences will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, the palace said.
She is not the only royal affected by the Government’s new advice. Heir to the throne the Prince of Wales is 71 and the Duchess of Cornwall is 72.
Other working royals include the Queen’s cousins the Duke of Gloucester, 75, the Duke of Kent, 84, and Princess Alexandra, 83.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 98, has already been spending most of his time in the sanctuary of Wood Farm, a cottage on the Sandringham estate.
The palace said further announcements would be made on Trooping the Colour, the 75th anniversary of VE Day and a state visit by the Emperor and Empress of Japan, in consultation with the Government.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masakois are due to stay with the Queen at Windsor Castle in May and be feted with a ceremonial welcome and a grand state banquet, but the high-profile occasion is expected to be postponed.
The palace said in a statement: ‘As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, a number of changes are being made to the Queen’s diary.
‘Her Majesty will move to Windsor Castle for the Easter period on Thursday 19 March, one week earlier than planned. It is likely the Queen will stay there beyond the Easter period.
‘In consultation with the Medical Household and Government, a number of public events with large numbers of people due to have been attended by the Queen, and other members of the royal family, in the coming months will be cancelled or postponed.’
An investiture had been due to take place at the palace on Wednesday.
Sixty-one recipients, accompanied by guests, were due to gather in the ballroom to collect a range of accolades, from MBEs to knighthoods and damehoods.
The Easter period is expected to be a quiet one for the monarch, as is usual, a source said.
Each year, the Queen takes up official residence in Windsor for a month over Easter between March and April, known as Easter Court.
The Queen also usually hosts a Dine and Sleep event during her stay when guests are given a bed for the night in the castle, but this will undoubtedly not take place.
Famous guests in the past have included director Tim Burton, actress Helena Bonham Carter, Bond star Daniel Craig and actress Rachel Weisz.
Queen Elizabeth II attends the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey last week
The Royal Standard is flying above the monarch’s official central London residence Buckingham Palace (pictured) – in defiance of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis
On Friday, Her Majesty’s upcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She is also said to have been advised to cancel her annual garden parties in May and June in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier this month the Queen is reported to have vowed not to let the outbreak stop her from performing her duties and to set an example by ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ until there is ‘compelling advice to the contrary’.
On Saturday, a building in Windsor Great Park was closed for a deep clean after three people showed symptoms similar to those of Covid-19. The Savill Building was closed over the weekend for the clean to take place.
A statement on the park’s website said: ‘As a precautionary measure we have taken the decision to close The Savill Building over the weekend to conduct a deep clean of the premises, after becoming aware of three individuals, who are showing symptoms similar to those of Covid-19, having been on site.
‘Whilst these are not confirmed cases we feel that this is a prudent step that prioritises the health and wellbeing of our employees and visitors.
‘We continue to monitor the situation and Government’s public health guidance closely. The rest of Windsor Great Park remains open as usual.’
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall had already pulled out of their spring overseas tour just days before it was due to begin.
The Queen, 93, was due to visit the Bentley Motors Factory in Crewe, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory and Square Kilometre Array Global Headquarters in Macclesfield on March 19. She was also due to visit Camden on March 26, but full details of the trip had not yet been released.
Charles and Camilla had been due to start their spring tour to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan on March 17. It would have marked the first time a royal has visited Cyprus since the Queen in 1993.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attend the Commonwealth Day reception on March 9
Buckingham Palace on Friday announced that the Queen’s upcoming visits would not go ahead ‘as a sensible precaution’ and ‘for practical reasons’ over concerns about coronavirus
A spokesman for the Queen said: ‘As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, changes are being made to The Queen’s diary commitments in the coming weeks.
‘In consultation with the Medical Household and Government, Her Majesty’s forthcoming visits to Cheshire and Camden will be rescheduled.
‘Audiences will continue as usual. Other events will be reviewed on an ongoing basis in line with the appropriate advice.’
The Queen – the nation’s longest reigning monarch – is due to turn 94 next month and the risk of more severe symptoms from the Covid-19 illness is greater for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
The day of engagements next Thursday would have seen the monarch travel to Cheshire to meet staff and apprentices at the Bentley factory, operate the Lovell Telescope at the observatory and meet local school children engaging in hands on science activities.
The Queen wore large gloves when she handed out honours to recipients at a palace investiture on March 3.
The Queen, who has carried out investitures since 1952, wore gloves for the first time at a Buckingham Palace investiture as she handed an MBE to D-Day veteran Harry Billinge earlier this month
She also avoided shaking hands at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey and during a one-to-one audience with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner this week, but was back shaking hands with Professor Mark Compton, Lord Prior of the Order of St John, on Wednesday.
It comes as The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on Friday revealed they would postpone their spring tour of the coronavirus pandemic.
The overall week-long visit had been due to start on March 17 and would have marked the first time a royal has visited Cyprus since the Queen in 1993.
Clarence House said the request came from the Government. Heir to the throne Charles and Camilla are understood to be in good health.
The tour may be replaced with engagements in the UK, but not those involving significant gatherings of people.
Charles was set to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 17 and 18, be joined by Camilla in Cyprus from March 18 to 21, and head to Jordan together until March 25.
‘Owing to the unfolding situation with the coronavirus pandemic the British government has asked their royal highnesses to postpone their Spring tour,’ a spokesman for the royal couple said yesterday.
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (seen in Auckland last November) were meant to visit the Republic of Cyprus next month. But their visit has now been cancelled
While in Jordan, the pair would have met meet King Abdallah II and Queen Rania of Jordan (pictured) and taken in a number of other sites of cultural, religious and environmental significance across the country
While in Jordan, the pair would have met meet King Abdallah II and Queen Rania of Jordan and taken in a number of other sites of cultural, religious and environmental significance across the country.
And in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Charles would have seen the memorial at Srebrenica to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide.
Announcing news of their tour in February, they wrote: ‘The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will jointly visit the Republic of Cyprus and Jordan next month.
‘Prior to this, The Prince will also visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the year of the 25th anniversary of the genocide, The Prince will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina where he will highlight reforms to improve citizens’ lives.
‘The Prince and The Duchess will make their first official visit to The Republic of Cyprus to recognise the work of the UN Peacekeeping Force and celebrate traditional Cypriot culture.
‘Their Royal Highnesses will visit The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to learn what the country is doing to support refugees and showcase its rich cultural history.’
Charles was due to start the tour by visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina to demonstrate the UK’s increased commitment to BiH and the Western Balkans region, its support for reforms to improve citizens’ lives.
Baroness Floella Benjamin, 70, received her damehood at Buckingham Palace last week from Prince Charles, both pictured. The pair exchanged a Namaste greeting (right)
The Prince of Wales was seen using a Namaste gesture to greet television presenters Ant McPartlin (left)and Declan Donnelly as he arrived at the annual Prince’s Trust Awards 2020 last week
The Prince of Wales was then to be joined by the Duchess of Cornwall on March 18, as they visit to The Republic of Cyprus to celebrate the historic ties between the United Kingdom and Cyprus.
The last leg of the tour was set to see Charles and Camilla return to Jordan from March 21 to March 25, to highlight their close ties with Jordan, underpinned by the long-standing, warm relationship between the two Royal Families.
The couple would see how the country supports its one million refugees fleeing conflict, and meet members of the Jordanian Royal Family.
The news comes after Charles shared a Namaste bow with Baroness Floella Benjamin on Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic, as she collected her damehood at Buckingham Palace.
The pair were spotted exchanging the greeting, which avoids any unnecessary touching of hands, during the investiture ceremony.
Known to millions as the host of Play School and Play Away, Baroness Benjamin, a beloved children’s TV presenter, was recognised for her services to charity in the New Year Honours List.
The Liberal Democrat life peer has dedicated over 40 years to campaigning for young people and supports charities including Barnardo’s, Sickle Cell Society and Beating Bowel Cancer.
At the beginning of the month the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were still seen greeting people with a traditional handshake during a tour of the London Transport Museum to mark 20 years of Transport for London
After receiving her damehood, the 70-year-old, from London, said: ‘You get such a buzz from giving back and making a difference, changing the world, and to get an honour like this after these years it’s like wonderful recognition.
‘Today, it’s giving me a wonderful feeling in my heart. I haven’t done charity work for any ulterior motive but only to change people’s lives.
‘To get it, it is like wow, how exciting. But I’m still thinking: what more can I do? To me, it doesn’t end here.’
A ‘huge admirer’ of Prince Charles, Baroness Benjamin said she was ‘thrilled’ to receive her damehood from him on Thursday.
Charles is not the first royal to take precautions, with the Duchess of Cornwall wearing a pair of leather gloves to shake hands with people she met at Cheltenham this week.